Vikings, “Rumours”, Leave Us Wanting More

Vikings Opponents
Dec 24, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Kevin O'Connell looks on before the game against the New York Giants at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

What do the Vikings have in common with the classic Fleetwood Mac album “Rumours”? In a fit of desperation, I started thinking about this while contemplating my PurplePTSD column for this week. I’m not going to lie – it can bring a writer to the brink of insanity covering the 2022-23 Minnesota Vikings. How do you even form—and worse, retain—an opinion from which to write about this team?

One week they’re exciting and inspiring, the next they are virtually unwatchable. They have talented and charismatic stars that we’re lucky to observe each weekend, but there are holes so glaring, and weaknesses so disillusioning, that they are impossible to ignore. Every time I think I’ve decided what exactly I think of this group, they do something to lay waste to that opinion.

It leaves a columnist like me with a weekly struggle. To write an “opinion piece”, one must have an opinion. The Vikings are good, or they’re not. Pick a side, and keep in mind they’re 12-4, for crying out loud—it’s not so hard, right? Um, yeah. It is. It’s darn near impossible.

I’ve written articles this year trumpeting this team’s abilities, praising their many and, by this time, storied and historic accomplishments, swearing my own personal allegiance to their Purple Goodness. And, I’ve written articles calling them out for being the inconsistent, negative-point-differential, Jekyll-and-Hyde team that they undeniably are. And I’ve written articles about how they are both, at the same time.  

It’s maddening, I tell you. But then again, I don’t have to tell you. You know.

There have been Minnesota Vikings teams more inconsistent than the 2022-23 edition. There have been teams more talented. More innovative. More inept. More prone to shoot themselves in the foot. More vulnerable in the secondary. More threatening up front. More capable in their run blocking. More effective in their downfield pass game. It’s just that there’s never been a team more jammed with all of things, all of the time, all at once.  

Vikings Start 2023 on a Sour Note, Losing to the Packers
Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Jarran Reed (90) rushes Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins (8) as he passes the ball on Sunday, January 1, 2023, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. Tork Mason/USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin Apj Packers Vs Vikings 010123 1120 Ttm

We’re a fan base that is used to wanting more. We’ve been waiting 45 years (and counting) for a return trip to the Super Bowl. We’ve been waiting for a Super Bowl victory since before there was a Super Bowl. There has been a lot of waiting. And even the most patient person has a limit for how much waiting they are willing to put up with.

But for every “more” we wish for, that would up the ante on the joy this team brings to us, there’s an equal and opposite “more” that could turn this maddeningly inconsistent but remarkably effective and entertaining team into nothing more than another average, ordinary squad.

For instance, I used this space recently to wish for more strength in the Vikings’ defense, particularly against the pass. In one of the few bright spots from an ugly contest last week against the Green Bay Packers, the defense allowed the third-fewest total yards (315) and second-fewest passing yards (152) of the season. I seemingly got what I wished for. The equal and opposite cost? A 41-17 blowout final score. A huge step backwards from special teams. Crucial turnovers. Critical injuries—including a season-ending Achilles injury to key lineman Brian O’Neill. And, another potentially decisive blow to our collective psyche.  

Is the endless game of “what if….” a useless exercise? What we forget is that the Vikings are a franchise chosen by the Greek Gods of American Football to represent all that is noble yet futile in our lives. Even if we got our wish for perfection, wouldn’t we just pay the price with some other karmic cost? After all, in 1998 we saw a 15-1 juggernaut that was about as close to perfection as one can see this side of the 1972 Dolphins, and our cost to pay was the emotional wreckage of Gary Anderson Wide Left. Few of us who saw that can claim to be whole, even today.

Week 16 NFL Playoff Picture
Dec 17, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson. Mandatory Credit: Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports.

Entering this season, the Vikings of the recent past had been consistent in one way—in their mediocrity. They had won either 7 or 8 games in 3 of the past 4 seasons. They had stars on offense and defense; they had conspicuous holes on offense and defense. They had the talent to break through for a playoff appearance (10-6 first-round losers in 2019) but in general the post-Minnesota Miracle Vikings have given us some wins and some losses, some big stars and big games and big performances, but nothing approaching what earlier teams had done for Vikings fandom—and nothing even close to what we’ve been treated to for three-fourths of this season.

I’m thinking we may just need to be grateful that this season is definitely NOT a season of mediocrity. The Vikings have shown us they can be a strong team capable of winning virtually anytime they walk onto the field (see: victories over playoff-caliber teams Buffalo, New England, New York (Giants), Green Bay, Miami, Detroit and shown that they are equally capable of being blown away by high-caliber opposition (see: convincing losses to Philadelphia, Dallas, Detroit and Green Bay).

They’ve spent the entire season building a won-loss record miles better than mediocre but seem determined to prove that they can be extremely bad when the situation dictates it. There are so many contradictions here, and that contrast is a lot of things, but at least it ain’t mediocre or ordinary. This year’s Vikings Way reads: if you’re going to do it, do it big. As fans who want to be entertained, isn’t that enough?

Dec 17, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports.

The Vikings should beat the Bears minus Justin Fields handily on Sunday, and in doing so would become just the third Vikings squad to win 13 games in the regular season, after the 2017 and 1998 squads. Even if they hadn’t won eleven games via comeback, winning 13 games would ensure this season’s place in franchise lore as one of its best ever. The fact that we’ve been treated to so much drama along the way just makes it all the sweeter.

And yet, we can’t be satisfied, can we? We’re like the Fleetwood Mac fan who couldn’t quite forgive them for the one crappy track on “Rumours” and who even then was pretty sure that their next record would disappoint them in a staggering way.

Maybe we just have to be content with the remarkable wins the Vikings have given us this year and fast-forward our way through those humiliating losses. And, just take solace in the fact that no matter how badly the team performs in the playoffs, watching them won’t be as agonizing as having to listen to the entire “Tusk” album again.